Two weeks after apparently fainting in court when a judge declared she could not be released from jail, accused movie studio con artist Carissa Carpenter is asking to speak to a federal judge Friday to replace her court-appointed attorney with a new lawyer, a move that would put her on her fourth attorney since her October 2014 indictment, court records show.
Carpenter, 54, is scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. in Sacramento on Friday morning “to address the court re: appointment of new counsel,” her current attorney, John Manning, wrote in a one-page memorandum filed in court last week.
The move is the latest squabble over Carpenter’s relationship with her own attorneys as she fights 32 felony charges of fraud and lying to the FBI in connection with her decades-long quest to build a massive movie studio project. Her last attempt, which she touted as a $2.8 billion project to bring Hollywood flair to the Solano County farming town of Dixon, collapsed and ultimately led to her indictment following a 2013 Sacramento Bee investigation of her activities.
Prosecutors say Carpenter bilked investors out of millions with her promises, and are now urging the judge to exercise caution with her request for yet another attorney in advance of her scheduled trial in August. If a new attorney is appointed, they are asking that it be one who can be ready for trial by August.
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“The discovery in the case is voluminous, including over 64,000 pages of documents,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd Pickles and Rosanne Rust wrote in a brief filed in response to Carpenter’s request. “Due to the appointment of three separate attorneys and the need for each to prepare, including their due diligence in reviewing the discovery and conducting an investigation, and taking into account their other legal commitments, there already has been a delay of over three years in this matter proceeding to trial.”
Prosecutors argued that appointing a new lawyer could further delay trial and “impact the memories of the witnesses” in a fraud case that dates back to 1997.
“A further delay in this case will not serve justice,” prosecutors wrote, noting that Congress has made it clear that crimes against victims “should be tried promptly and not subject to dilatory shenanigans.”
The prosecutors also noted that in her Dec. 20 court hearing, at which Carpenter was seeking release from Sacramento County jail while she awaits trial, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kendall J. Newman praised Manning’s abilities as an attorney.
“Carpenter is entitled to effective counsel, not a miracle worker,” Pickles and Rust wrote. “Any dissatisfaction with the results of her counsel’s efforts is not a basis for the appointment of new counsel.”
Assistant Federal Defender Ben Galloway was assigned to represent Carpenter originally, but by January 2016 asked the court to appoint a new attorney because of “an extensive irreconcilable conflict.”
“This conflict has led to a significant breakdown in communication that substantially interferes with the attorney-client relationship,” Galloway wrote at the time, without elaboration.
Burrell then appointed attorney Scott Tedmon, but he left the case after being appointed as a Sacramento Superior Court judge, and Manning took over a year ago.
In recent months, Carpenter has suffered legal setbacks, including the August order that she be jailed after violating the terms of her release on $25,000 bail.
Prosecutors say Carpenter moved to out-of-state homes without permission, contacted witnesses in the case despite being warned not to and bilked her Los Angeles attorney out of $20,000. She also claimed her attorney and others in Sacramento “had been bought out by Wells Fargo Bank,” which she contended was trying to frame her and kill her by cutting her brake lines, court documents say.
“She simply does what she wants and when she wants to,” prosecutors argued.
She apparently has not fared well in custody, and she appeared pale and frightened at the December hearing during which Manning argued she should be released because of her many health problems. During that hearing, she appeared to faint, with her head dropping onto the defense table at one point before she recovered and began searching for her heart medicine.
“I’m going to be dead,” she told her attorney before being escorted back to the jail.